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One to Three Billion People Will Live in a Hotter World in Next 50 Years

Updated on May 9, 2020
Deepa damodaran profile image

Deepa is a freelance researcher and journalist. She writes and makes documentaries and videos.

Hotter Days, Less Food

All of us are worried about climate change, in some way or other, though many of us may be worrying in complete ignorance. Climate change is a word that so far everyone is familiar with. However, 99 percent or more of us never bother to find out what science exactly says about climate change and what is happening upfront the climate change research globally. The latest information on climate change always appears in scientific journals, then a part of it trickles down to the popular media, and often that too will end up in an unnoticed corner of the chaotic information world.

This is why I want to talk about a new study that was published just on May 4, 2020, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. This study is titled, ‘Future of the Human Climate Niche’. It imparts significant insight into the niche temperature in which humans have thrived all over the world through centuries of history and tries to find out how climate change will have an impact on this. The scientists behind this study are Chi Xu, Timothy A. Kohler, Timothy M. Lenton, Jens-Christian Svenning, and Marten Scheffer.

What does this study tell us that we do not know already and how is it important to our lives? It is about the last 6000 years of human life on planet earth that here we are talking about. What was the annual temperature in which the majority of humans lived if we consider wholly this vast expanse of time? The scientists of this study have arrived at that mean temperature and it is around 13 degrees Celsius. The crucial part of this finding is also that over the last 6000 years, there was no major variation in the ambient temperature that humans could survive in and hence chose to live. Now, the question is whether this is about to change owing to climate change. Yes, say the authors of this study.

The study reveals that between 1 billion and 3 billion people could find themselves outside of this comfortable climate sphere in a short span of 50 years. The resulting problems will not be limited to us having to endure hotter days and nights. The trickier part of the problem is that all our crop cultivation also thrived in the same climate range as we did. Now, that is going to be a real problem for us. Plants are more sensitive to varying climate conditions than we humans are. The consequences of about 3 billion people experiencing warmer climate will wreak havoc to their food security and self-reliance.

Source

Climate Induced Disparities

The authors of the study have prepared a map based on the projected geographic suitability of different regions of the world for human habitation. This map shows that major parts of Africa, South America, and Asia are under the threat of becoming uninhabitable.

The governments all over the world will have to immediately identify the regions that would be affected worst and plan accordingly to ensure that the people who live in these regions have access to drinking water and food, basically. In a scenario where this is not carried out, the world will see more poverty, disparities, and unrest.

Another unwanted result of the temperature change will be resource-related conflicts and mass migrations. The study re-examines the Syrian conflict and points out that it is partially caused by the drought in the fertile crescent- a drought that has been the worst ever in the past 900 years. When the crops fail consistently and when there is acute scarcity, people will be forced to migrate in search of a livelihood. Climate migrants are already a known social issue for the world. The authors of the new research also warn that the most affected populations and communities will be the least privileged in terms of development and money.

Source

To Foresee Future is the First Step to Change It

There are many ways to address the issue. This study need not fill us with doom and gloom alone. It empowers us to identify and understand the issue at hand, in a better way. It even helps us to know where the intervention is needed most. Why don’t we identify these regions and try to improve the microclimate and sustainability of these regions by planting trees, establishing water conservation protocols, developing the human resource potential for alternative income sources, reinforcing the sustainable farming infrastructure, and building awareness? However, the sad fact remains that a world mired in disparities, economic greed, and a politics insensitive to human suffering rarely manifest such foresightedness, not to mention the will to act.

Reference

Future of the Human Climate Niche, A study published on May 4, 2020, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, and authored by Chi Xu, Timothy A. Kohler, Timothy M. Lenton, Jens-Christian Svenning, and Marten Scheffer. https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/04/28/1910114117

© 2020 Deepa

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